restaurant in niigata city on thursday morning. it eventually destroyed about 150 buildings, including houses and shshops. two residents and eight firefighters suffered injuries. city officials sayay the fire raged througugh an area and 744 opople and 3 363 households hahe been advdvised not to return to ththeir homes just yet. the restaurant owner says he discovered the fire had broken out after he returned from a short absence. residents say the blaze was at first restricted to the area around the restaurant. but after about 90 minutes, strong winds sent sparks into the air and helped fan the flames. >> translator: sparks flew all over the place, and the fire roared up. the flames suddenly spread as far as the shore. >> firefighters say the narrow streets in the neighborhood made it difficult to fight the blaze and keep it from spreading from
house to house. tens of thousands of people have visited the imperial palace in tokyo to celebrate the 38rd earthdy of emperor akihitito. the emperor and empress s appead on the balcony three times duriring the mororning andnd wa well-wishers. in an address, the empereror expressed gratitude for the words of congratulations he received. he said he feared for the well being of many of the evacuees who were left in the cold after a huge fire. he said he hopes 2017 will be a cheerful and peaceful year and that he prays for people's health and happiness. the imperial household agency said about 38,000 people visited the palace friday. that's the largest number during emperor akihito's reign. in the afternoon, he met with prime minister shinzo abe, the president of the house of counselor and the speaker of the house of representatives who visited the
palace to celebrate his birthday. u.s. president-elect donald trump has suggested that he may change the country's nuclear arms policy from that of president obama. barack obama has called for a world without nuclear weapons. in a twitterer message on thursday, trump said the united states must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes. trump's spokesperson said the president-elect wanted to impress the need to modernize the country's capability as a waway to pursue e peace through strength. trump's tweet fofollowed remark by russian president pututin th russia shohould modernize its s nuclear weapons. some u.s. media say trump'p's remark may have been a reaction to putin's speech. they know that trump asserted during the presidential election that the u.s. has been slower to modernize its nuclear capabilities than russia.
syrian government forces say they've retaken complete control of aleppo. the northern city had been the largest stronghold of opposition groups. the syrian military issued a statement on thursday night, saying it has returned security and safety to aleppo as the last remaining opposition fighters withdrew from the city. it's seen as a turning point on the war on terrorism. government forces led the attack on aleppo with the help of russian airstrikes. they took almost all of the city under their control last week, prompting opposition forces to hand over their small enclave in eastern aleppo. turkey has been playing a bigger role in the war in neighboring syria. it's seeing refugees flow across
the border. in an attempt to deal with the issue, turkey has been trying to create a safe zone along its border. nhk world reporting. >> reporter: in 2013, this man and his family came to turkey. their hometown was in syria and had been captured by islamic state militants. >> translator: they killed around 30 people, including my brother, my cousins. >> reporter: since arriving in turkey, he has been sewing to make a living as he did in syria the children also have to stay at home to work. so they don't go to school. it's the only way the family can make ends meet. one day, he heard news about his hometown. the turkish army sent troops and drove the islamic military out.
just two weeks later, syrian refugees started returning by the turkish government. turkey has been overrun by the flow of refugees. another reason why supporting this effort. >> translator: now we are moving towards syria. we don't need terror organizations like the kurdish democratic union party and the kurdish people's protection forces. >> reporter: a strong kurdish presence in the area along the turkey's border. the turkish government's aim is to create a buffer zone to put pressure. the turks army is guarding diabalos with syrian army. turkey is also helping to rebuild hospitals and schools. inside turkey, steps are also being taken. here in syria are medical workers.
in reparation to work inside syria. they're selected by turkish government. the aim is to rebuild medical services and also to provide refugees with jobs. hussain has been hoping to return to his hometown where his brother still lives. askedd him how the airports are doing. >> translator: what's the situation there? >> translator: the road is open again. >> reporter: now that they have little security, there's renewed hope for the fututure. huhussain has dedecided to take family home. in early december, some 15,000 syrians had returned. but there are not enough jobs or schools in the city. people in buffer zones seem safe from attack by islamic state
militants, but they can still hear the sound of fighting in surrounding areas. for many, , their lives remain full of anxiety and pressure. nhk world, turkey. the world health organization has announced a break through in the fight against the ebola virus. officials say a vaccine developed by the canadian government has proven highly effective. they say that's a world first. a research group led by the w.h.o. carried out a ten-month trial mainly in guinea. they gave the vaccine to around 3,700 peoplple immediately afte they c came intoto contatact wi someone who had the virus. after a ten-day window, none of them have developed ebola. about 8,8,000 other people took part in the stududy and rereceia vaccine weeks later or not at
all. 34 o of them came down with the virus. ebebola has several subtypes.. the vaccine was developed for the zaire strain which has caused multiple outbreaks since 2013. a bathhouse in japan has the same name as one that opened in japan. but the owners say there's no connection between the two. observers say this could be another case of a chinese firm using a foreign brand name for profit and without permission. the onsen is a popular destination for chinese tourists. the company said on thursday it has no business relationships with any companies in foreign countries, including china. the bathhouse near shanghai began operating on wednesday. its decor includes many symbols of japan, including a famous bear. an employee told nhk that the country's relationship to the
bathhouse is unclear, but the chinese shouldn't create a problem for its namesake. the documents known as the panama papers continue to send shock waves around the world. the contents were shared with reporters of invesive journalists. the papers revealed that many global companies are using tax havens to complete daily business. that makes it difficult to determine who is playing by the rules. nhk world's takafumi terui reports. >> reporter: we met from a company, both taiwanese and japanese firms have invested in it. >> this is a scheme, and if you could help us to further investigate. >> they don't have to transfer that from the tax havens and taiwan or japan and where the
tax may be imposed. >> thank you. thank you for coming. >> keep in touch. >> reporter: nhk joined an international network that has been analyzing the panama papers. the papers hold confidential data on shell companies established in tax havens. they include personal information of company representatives and shareholders. the total number of japanese on the list is over 700. we began tracking each of these people down. as we reviewed their addresses and titles, we came across names associated with major japanese trading firms. the case we are investigating involves atially company in the virgin islands. it invested in another firm in china and received dividends. normally, such dividends would
be reported as profits, and the taiwanese and japanese investors would pay taxes on them to their respective authorities. our investigation revealed that the taiwanese firm may not have been doing so. >> w we send any money back. >> zero. >> yes, zero. so it means they don't send any money. they don't pay tax in taiwan. >> reporter: how about the japanese company. the firm told us that it had paid taxes in accordance with the law.
in another case, a major trading firm was trying to set up a shell company with an iranian national oil firm. its representatives say the aim of the shell company was to conduct feasibility studies on iranian infrastructure, but they explain they didn't complete the establishment process because they couldn't find common interest with the iranian firm. all japanese firms we spoke with said that they pay taxes properly, but they add that the taxes that are imposed on them are based on what they reveal to the authorities. the head of the national tax agency told us that it's not easy to tackle the issue. >> translator: honestly speaking, itit is vevery diffic to grasp the scope of int international tax evasions. after the panama papers'
release, i think we need to step up our efforts to keep an eye out for tax evasion and to investigate, if necessary. >> reporter: the companies are the ones to decide how much information to disclose about their activities and tax havens. and such places can keep some of the business covered. takafumi terui, nhk world, tokyo. japan is known as the land of cute mascots. many businesses depend on them to endear themselves to customers. but do you ever wonder where they come from? we take a look at a company that creates custom designs with just the right amount of cute. >> reporter: this business provides rental wifi routers to customers arrived to the airport. they've introduced
two time-traveling ninja characters from the edo period. and these foreign visitors find them irresistible. >> many people are fascinated about japan because of mangas, i guess. >> t translator: people can tel right away that these images are japanese. it's a distinctive look that other countries can't copy. >> reporter: but these characters didn't really travel through a rift in time. they were created by a company in shizuoka. the company provides designs to busisses that want to transform their brand and reach a larg audience. it matches imageses. they choose what they like. each design costs about $3,000. half of that goes to the artist, and the rest goes to the company. >> translator: many firms are having difficulty reaching new
markets and customers. characters like these can really help them expand their customer base. >> reporter: some of the characters this company has created are already making a big splash. this aquarium opened 40 years ago. recently, the number of visitors has started to decline. so the management enlisted some outside support, a rather unusual mascot. the character is decked out in a blue and yellow costume. it's modeled after the sea slugs commonly found in the area. >> translator: it's cute. >> translator: it even has the anten antenniie. >> reporter: but it wasn't just the tee sign that caught people's attention. like the slug that inspired it, she has both male and female traits, and that led to more than 10,000 posts on social
media in a single day. so the aquarium decided to expand the character's social network to include a sister and a childhood friend. anand as the story expanded, so did the number of visitors. >> translator: i believe people got caught up in the idea that one figure could be both male and female. actually, that's not the result we were aiming for, but now we feel that the sea slug was the right choice. >> reporter: as more affordable designs make it easier for smaller firms to get into the character game, the cuteness boom is likely to continue for a long time to come. many religions throughout history have been persecuted. it was no different in feudal japan when christianity was banned and believers were forced
to go under ground. it transformed into a faith and a community. but as nhk reports, this 400 year old religigious minority i gradually disappearing. >> reporter: every year people attend a mass held in the woods in the western city of nagasaki. many of the gatherers are the descendants of hidden christians. about four centuries ago, christianity was strictly prohibited. the stitches of one god was unable. even after the persecution ended, s some lived in f fear o retaliation and ultimately did not return to the catholic church. home to 4,000 people.
there are around 60 hidden christians in this area. this 67-year-old can tracece hi faith back seven generations. he is the leader of the biggest grououp of hidden christiaians the district. he begins each day by offering prayers. >> translator: this is how buddhists do it, but hidden christians cross themselves like this. if you cross your chest this way, no one can tell. >> reporter: the graveyards are where his ancestors would arrange stones into a cross while playing and then scatter them so the grave would not be recognized as christian. followers had to regist pray to
female figurure. to hidden christians, she reprpresented the virgin mary. >> translator: for two and a half centuries, the hidden christians survived such strict persecutions. we have a lot to learn from their purehearted dedication to their faith. >> reporter: this is a reminder of why his faith is so strong. several generations are buried here, including his father. when his father died ten years ago, murakami found himself unable to recite the prayers correctly. >> translator: i was so frustrated with myself at that time. i came here for three years, and mem. >> marty:i:ized all the prays.s. i've changed. i'm glad to be a hidden christian. >> reporter: today murakami fears that hidden christians could disappear.
he is calling on all the group leaders to join forces and protecect their beliefs and strengthen the community. he makes every effort to document his faith. he's been recording his prayers and rituals. he hopes to pass them on to his successor, but he has not found one yet. the annual mass begins at a sacred location. the attendees are christian, catholic and buddhist, and all have come to help. >> translator: everybody here was a hidden christian back then.
>> translator: we've been working totogether to maintainie traditioion. >> reporter: the ancient prayers come in. >> translator: this is a moment the locals reflect on a time when their ancestors were united as hiddeden christians. >> translator: our faith didn't end underground. it's surviving, even today. we still exist. that's why i must carry on. that is my mission. >> reporter: nhk world. it's time now for world weather with our meteorologist jonathan oh. jonathan, we've had a nice start
to the long weekend here, quite windy but warm. is colder weather on the way? >> it looks like we will feel more like winter as we go through the next couple days. we've been dealing with temperatures well above average this time of year, but cold air is trying to seep back in. that will bring temperatures closer to normal and plenty more winter weather up toward the north as we go through saturday and sunday. here are some reports that we received over the past several hours. into hokkaido, we saw 42, 43 centimeters of snowfall in some locations. and yesterday trying to walk home with the wind was quite a task. airport 105 miles per hour. back toward the west, some gusts were reported up to 134 kilometers per hour. it was a bit intense. we are looking at breezy conditions to be around for a little bit longer. but once the low pressure system that's really aidinghe p pross of those windy conditions moving out to the east we should ststa to see things calming down
sea effect snow taking place along the side of the country and be on the lookout for more snowfall as we go throughout the next couple of days. looking at chilly conditions in sapporo for saturday, and christmas day looking at a high of 1. a little bit of a warmup for tokyo and osaka. meanwhile, we go down to the south, and a very different story for those preparing for chrimamas ithe e phippinene we aropical systemhatill be a strong typhoon as it reacss the philippines. be on the lookout, especially those of you in manila and areas around manila, this is going to brbring a lot of rainfall.l. some places s could see upup to millimeters or more of rainfall depending on how the storm moves. there are a lot of outdoor plans that come with the christmas weekend, but unfortunately, this storm will be heading your direction, so you need to be
preparing for that. meanwhile, we go to australia, and we had a tropical cyclone that is now down to a tropical low. but that's not the end of the story as it tries to gather stuff and move down,, there is the expectation that this storm could become a tropical cyclone. and rain over the western portions o of australia. so be on the lookout for that as we go throughout the next few days. we're looking at the possibility of intensification on saturday into christmas day. now as we look at what's happening in north america, plenty of dry conditions along the eastern seaboard. but series of low pressure systems in the u united states. one in the central plains and another in the pacific northwest. so you'll be dealing with the possibility of rain and some snow as we go forward in time. snow possibilities into places like seattle and vancouver, otherwise, rain as we go
throughout the day on friday, looking at wet weather into los angeles with a high of 17. showers in oklahoma city and houston. but snow into chicago and eastern seaboard plenty of sunshine from new york into atlanta. and as we look at the christmas eve forecast, looking at snow for the western side of the united states, showers in indiana and garland, texas and maybe even snow for new york with showers into places like christmas, florida, with a high of 28. hope you have a good day wherever you are. here's your extended outlook.